Plant Care & Maintenance

This is a summary of  ideas and recommendations to keeping plants successfully. Further reading is still highly recommended to obtain a broader picture and detailed information to assist in understanding the reasons to how and why in maintaining aquatic plants.


One of the biggest challenges in keeping aquariums is maintaining plants. Not just in keeping them alive, but to propagate them and tastefully arrange them in an aquarium without spending hours every week and spending large volumes of money. But to know what is required and maintaining those requirements are two steps, the latter, (maintaining the constant, best conditions for a variety of plants) is the most difficult.

Aquarium: The “length” of the aquarium will depend on both the room size and budget. The “width” (front to back) is critical – a minimum of 400 mm  (~14”), to obtain some form of foreground  / background differentiation and  for practicality’s sake, no more  than 36 inches  wide. Also for practicality, the “height” should be less than 36 inches, but above 18 inches.

Lighting: For fluorescent lights, Daylight, High Grade Triphosphor or similar tube that exhibits good colour rendition, one tube for every 6 – 10 inches of width depending on total depth (the deeper the tank, the more tubes.).  As a guide, use 80 watt lamps for less than 24 inch deep tanks and 125 watt lamps for tanks over 24  inches. Keep these  lamps at least 40 cm above the aquarium at all times due to the amount of heat that they emit. For all plants, 10 – 12 hours of light is sufficient.

LED lighting is still new, and there are a lot of variations in colour rendition and brightness – you will have to compare different units side by side and ask an Aquotix Staff person to explain the differences in order to help decide which is most suited for your tank size and application.

Filtration: A biological filter is not necessary in a heavily planted aquarium. An efficient mechanical filter would be required to remove visible waste and dirt, preventing excessive build-up of mud in the gravel. Water movement will facilitate the constant supply of nutrients  to the leaves of the plants. Turning the water over once every hour is sufficient.

Heating: Maintain the temperature anywhere between 18 and 30 degrees Celsius for most plants.

Gravel: Use neutral or dark colour with average  grain size of 3 mm. Make the gravel bed approximately 2 inches deep in the front and up to 5 inches in the back. Use a moderate number of rocks or wood to terrace the gravel. It is not necessary to put additives in the gravel, though some additives such as clay or tablet forms of aquarium plant fertilisers may be used in moderation. There are also specialised Aquasoils available – ask an Aquotix Staff member to explain the differences between the different soils to find the best one for your preferred application.

Water Conditions:  Water should be relatively soft; approximately 4 kH (80 ppm carbonate hardness), especially  if Carbon Dioxide (CO²) is being used. Nitrate (NO3) should be kept below 10 ppm. Phosphates (PO4) should also be kept below 0.5 ppm. Iron (Fe) should be maintained at 0.5-1.0 mg/l. In this system, the pH should not fluctuate outside the values of 6.0 to 7.5.

Test Kits:  In order to maintain constant water quality the following tests should be carried out fortnightly; Nitrate (NO3) – Phosphate (PO4) – Iron (Fe) – Carbonate hardness (KH) If Carbon Dioxide is being used then adjust the flow to maintain the pH at approximately 6.5.

Following are recommendations for maintaining the water conditions:

Maintaining Hardness: If your water is too hard (10 KH  or 180 ppm), use ion exchange resins (softening pillows) before adding water to the aquarium or use a mixture of rain water and tap water. For too soft water, add KH liquids or powder.

Maintaining Nitrates: For high Nitrate levels, do more regular water changes, remove excess fish, and feed less food. Do not allow the nitrates to fall to 0 ppm, the plants still need regular quantities of nitrogen in their diet!

Maintaining Phosphates: If phosphate levels rise, do more  regular water changes, cut down on food, especially tablet food.

Maintaining Iron: Daily additions of liquid aquarium plant fertilisers should maintain a  constant level of soluble iron. Increase or decease the daily dosage according to test results.


Some plants don’t grow while others are doing well: To begin with, avoid the difficult species. Some plants available in shops are bog plants, and do not grow in aquariums. Experiment with new species and purchase more of those that do well.

Fish are eating or digging up plants: Read up on your fish first! When seeking opinions, ask more than one person.

The leaves of new plants are going brown and rotting away: Remove these leaves and as long as the water quality is correct and other plants are doing well, the affected plant should re-grow. If not, discuss this with an Aquotix Staff member.

Sick Fish: Do not use medications here! Remove affected fish and treat elsewhere.

Too many snails: Introduce a clown loach or two.